It is interesting how, when we make friends at any new place, we look for things in common. If you are into the same things I am, it makes both of us happy and we can hang out, build a connection and stuff. Pretty sweet, right? This has been a guiding principle for friendships, alliances, immigration and so many other connection building processes between individuals and groups. If we know we want the same things, it is easier for us to work together, build trust.
So, what seems to be the problem? Well, the problem is that a few things we have in common are a few superficial things that do not even tell us half the story about what an individual or group are like. They are things that have very little consequence in the world. What do you like to eat and drink? Coffee or tea? Favorite type of music? Bars or clubs? Favorite sport and team? These things tell you very little about the core of someone's being, the centuries or thousands of years of culture, life lessons and history they carry inside them, and their core being which, at the end of the day, is the true driver behind the vehicle of their short and long term decisions, and really their entire life. These things, especially in a diverse society, are that which makes us different from each other. They are things we hold dear to our hearts and are not ready to let go of. Sooner or later, they swim out to the surface and can supersede any trivial things we have in common, destroying connections between us. Differences are actually the things that make us more unique, that define who we are, and also happen to be the things we cannot or will not give up. You can change your favorite food far easier than you can your religion. You can change your favorite vacation spot but not your ethnicity. So, if we are trying to connect with people who have trivial things in common with us but their differences are not compatible with ours, the connection we are trying to build will not exist for long if our differences are significant and we either try to ignore it, or do nothing about it. Now, you may ask why this is a problem to begin with because you can find someone who has trivial and core things in common with you, and exist within that bubble. Well, the problem is that bubbles will eventually go away and that we will not be able to move forward as society and as a planet if we want to count only on connecting with people who are a perfect match for us.
What is the beginning of a solution then? Start with things you have in common, then move on to finding out differences and talk openly about which ones you can and which ones you cannot accept. If you find you have differences you cannot accept, you need to negotiate a middle ground. If no middle ground can be found, then you need to put up boundaries so as to avoid those differences with no middle ground causing a conflict. Let us take female circumcision as an example. This is a long-time practice in certain countries that is at the core of culture and beliefs of some people. Sadly, it involves the cutting off of a woman's (or rather a young girl's) clitoris. You can have a family coming to live in a different country from a place where this is core practice. This family may like the same food, same movies, the capitalist free market economy, but they may fully believe in the importance, tradition and (in their experience) the righteousness of female circumcision. If people of their new home country that try to build connections with them have core differences that are opposed to female circumcision, and neither them nor the family are willing or able to find middle ground on this issue (personally I do not think there is one because there is no such thing as a partial female circumcision), then the only way forward without conflict is to put up boundaries. Each side keeps core values to their own circles and they do not try to use the belief in legitimacy of either core value as a weapon of conquest. This is not the same as live and let live because live and let live is a vague concept with no rules or clarifications and can it causes more questions than it answers.
At this point, you may wonder well what about globalization? Are we not moving, or rather should we not move towards becoming one global society like in Star Trek or something? This, dearest readers, is something I and many people I talked to believe is impossible. People are very protective of their core differences, and there is a reason why. Any time you try to erase differences and create a new society, there is one culture, one set of ideas that always prevails over others. Someone or something always ends up on top with an unfair share of influence. Want global religion for all? If you pick reincarnation then there is no Heaven and Hell. If you pick nondescript architecture for its places of worship, you erase building styles that people associate with their beliefs. If we pick one global language, it will be language of one nation and it will elevate those people and their heritage above everyone else in a global society. If you create one type of music that is a mix of all music types from around the world, you will erase the entire history of music that people love and enjoy.Finally, if we globalize and become one and the same, we will become one global society that will have everything in common, but will refuse to allow changes and evolution. We will, by default, stagnate and fail on a global scale.
That is why, dearest readers, I really believe that differences are more important than similarities, and that our future depends on learning, understanding and dealing with them. I also do not think that differences between us should ever completely go away, but simply evolve over time as they always have. Let us therefore continue to put our eggs in billions of baskets instead of just one :)